Going Down to Tinseltown
By Jim Robertson
Everyone knows that as temperatures cool, star gazing season officially begins out west.
No, I am not talking about the Perdied Meteor shower or the appearance of the Autumn Star. We’re talking about where the stars shine the brightest. Its L.A., baby, and this is awards season. It all starts with TV’s biggest and brightest stage… the Emmys!
Of course only the L.A. elite get to hang in the Hollywood Hills, walk the red carpet in designer threads and dance the night away at the Governor’s Ball… right? Think again, my friends, and let me tell you the story of the girl from Uvalde who made it to L.A., but not before a stop in Oak Ridge and lots of time watching cartoons in Atlanta… yeah, cartoons… in Y’allywood.
Improbable? Probably. Unlikely? Like, totally. Impossible? Hardly.
So, what was the first step this road to the red carpet? It started back in 2011, with a letter to the Dean of the Terry College of Business at of the University of Georgia. Written by a young sales associate at IHG who wanted more. She knew where she wanted to be, but she knew she needed to grow before she was ready to sparkle. Her name was Malia. She was applying for graduate school, but she told the dean she was coming to Terry in order to work for Atlanta’s own Turner. A girl with a plan.
Fast forward five years, now this dreamer is armed with a master’s degree and the experience of five years, three promotions at IHG. Solving problems and bringing people together was a part of her nature and that passion had been nurtured into a path forward. Then, Turner came calling. Her words – a prophecy. She was at Turner and not just any team. She was with Cartoon Network, the creative, shining star of the Turner family.
Nothing ventured. Nothing gained. The job in itself is a reason to celebrate, but that is just the beginning, not the end of this journey. As you know, this story has a happy Hollywood ending. So, let’s get there.
What does digital user experience have to do with Hollywood? Well, I will put it this way. Your smart phone is eating your TV. Malia, as the digital product manager for Cartoon Network, is just helping with the digestion process. Ten million kids every minute are watching “TV” on smartphones. These kids might not ever hang a TV on their wall.
Hollywood, and the entire entertainment industry, is taking notice. And that recognition starts with TVs biggest event. The Emmys have always ended with the Primetime Emmy Awards, but Academy of Television Arts & Sciences also host the Creative Arts Awards the weekend before the Primetime Awards. These events are carbon copies of each other and take place at the Microsoft Theater in Downtown L.A.
For the most part, the Creative Arts Emmy Awards are exactly the same as the Primetime Emmys… basically a dressed rehearsal. The Creative Arts Emmys are presented in recognition of technical and other similar achievements in American television programming, including guest acting roles… and you guessed it… Interactive Media! A jury of the best and brightest minds in digital (think Apple, Google, Netflix) voted to award the absolute best user experience and design for a digital app and Malia’s product won!
Since this was a juried prize, the team actually found out in advance of the awards. This was the first Emmy for Cartoon Network digital, and as you can imagine the entire Turner organization was thrilled. They even made the Turner homepage. Plans began immediately to fly Malia and the rest of the team out to L.A., so they could collect their hardware for a job well done.
Of course with an invite to the Emmys comes a walk down the red carpet. So, your initial focus is all about fashion. How many chances in one life do you get to walk the red carpet? Exactly. So, let the shopping begin. Malia ended up with a beautiful piece of vintage couture. Truly, a throwback to Hollywood glamour with a sleek, form fitting Dolce & Gabbana dress that was a show stealer. Granted, we picked it up from the tailor on the way to the airport, but the fit was perfect and the look… classic Hollywood.
With the dress set, only one thing stood in the way of our trip down the red carpet… partying in the Hollywood Hills. The tough thing about partying in the Hollywood Hills is affording a home up there! The good news for us. The head of the Cartoon Network Studio in L.A., Rob Sorcher, had us covered. Does Sorcher’s name sound familiar? Before he joined Cartoon Network, he spent some time with AMC where he helped develop Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Yeah, you know him, and he invited us over to his house to celebrate on Friday night.
Sorcher’s home (and party) did not disappoint. Even after a long day of traveling from the East Coast, the twinkling lights of DTLA below, the Hollywood sign above and the Griffith Observatory off in the distance, left no doubt. We had arrived. Sorcher’s L.A. was intoxicating, and out of reach for most. Tonight, Sorcher’s L.A. was our L.A., and it was awesome. I am pretty sure Banksy is his neighbor.
After our night in the hills, the team was famished and needed to keep our L.A. story on track. The only stop that would do would be sushi at Katsuya Hollywood on the corner of Hollywood and Vine… of course. Fueled by adrenaline and excitement, we dined until after midnight (think 3am in ATL!) and then surrendered to slumber. So, we retreated to our accommodations downtown – the ACE Hotel.
The ACE was the perfect backdrop for our adventure. The hotel occupies the historic United Artists building in Downtown L.A. Built in 1927 for the maverick film studio, the UA Theater and tower stand as monuments to a group of seminal American artists pushing out on their own. Rooms come with turntables, acoustic guitars and of course… blank hotel branded sheet music in place of hotel stationary. We’re not in Atlanta any more…
Malia and Jim walking the red carpet.
The day of the awards ceremony finally arrives. The good news is we have our own professional stylist waiting for us. You know her. Family fashionista, L.A. resident, American Apparel Retail Operations Manager and part time makeup artist - Abby Gail Mask. Glamour Girl was in her element as she helped Malia, and a few other Cartoon Network executives, get their face camera ready. After leaving us, Abby was on her way to another photoshoot for American Apparel.
After saying our goodbyes and thank yous to Glamour Girl, the moment we’d waited for finally arrived. It was our turn to walk the red carpet. Even without the star power of the Daytime Awards, the experience was magical, and the stars were surely shining. I think Malia was the most excited about hanging with Corey from Boy Meets World (maybe a little too excited). If you asked her, she would probably try and sound cool, and tell you we sat behind Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci from Garfunkle and Oates. They didn’t win an Emmy… Malia did. Sorry girls.
Following the awards ceremony (where Game of Thrones literally won everything), we were ushered down a second red carpet and it was time to party. We were greeted with water and bubbly as we walked across the street to the convention center and the Governor’s Ball. The nature's elegance-themed party was breathtaking. Thousands of twinkling lights and hundreds of floral arrangements transformed an ordinary space into a truly magical environment.
The amazing space was transformed once again after our team dinner by amazing live entertainment and a rush to the dancefloor. Malia and her team took over the dance floor and didn’t stop celebrating until the last song was played.
All in all our L.A. story was a special one. Once in a lifetime achievement, that was the result of lots of hard work, some serious shopping and a graduate school admissions letter. I will never look up at the stars again without thinking of Malia’s time to shine.